By Angela Chen
A powerful presentation of Black female voices and a recollection of Black history and activism highlighted the Hyde Park Art Center and South Side Art Center’s virtual celebratory event Monday of the late Martin Luther King Jr.
The event opened with a poetry reading by Chicago poet, artist and activist Lesle Honore of “Get your hands off our King,” a poem calling out those who have persecuted the Black community and those who still do so. “Get your hands off our King, get your hands off his legacy, our dream,” her voice resounded as people in the Zoom chat applauded emojis and encouraged her to “go off.”
After the poetry reading, Black female filmmakers introduced their work.
“Martin Luther King’s Unsung Heroes,” a documentary by Cathleen Campbell, is an ode to the heroes of the civil rights movement. “The Black Archive Project: Chicago Uprisings 2020,” a short-video series by Resita Cox, draws on first-hand interviews with protesters, organizers and artists during the 2020 protests following the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police.
“Chicago was one of the first places MLK organized in the Midwest,” said Cox, a documentary filmmaker and Northwestern University alum. “He talks and reflects about it a lot. And it just seemed like a match made in heaven, especially considering this project is about censoring the organizers and making sure these voices specifically are erased from historical record.”
“The Black Archive Project,” filmed in Chicago, preserves the events of 2020 to make sure that critics don’t erase first-hand accounts and events from the historical record. The film series is supposed to give an all-encompassing look from six unique perspectives in an effort to continue building a Black archive of 2020.
“Unapologetic” a full feature-length documentary by Chicago-based filmmaker Ashley O’Shay, is told through the perspective of Janae Bonsu and Bella Bahhs, two abolitionist leaders and current activists who support #defundthepolice and . The film takes a deep look into the Black Lives Matter movement as well as Bonsu’s and Bahhs’ personal motivations and contributions towards the movement.
The documentary hits close to home as the featured protests, activism and issues take place in Chicago. The film covers the police killing of Rekia Boyd, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot makes several appearances in the discussion of Chicago’s ongoing debate of Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Police Department.
The celebration ended in a panel discussion on the films and next steps on what to expect.
“He (Martin Luther King Jr.) left a lot of tools, a lot of guidance, for what we have ahead of us,” Bahhs said during the panel discussion. Bahhs recently led a walkout with students at CPS.
“The Black Archive Project” full series will be exhibited at the Sisters of Cinema Media Art Center in the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago this spring. Unapologetic will be on PBS POV until Feb. 26.
Angela is a video/broadcast graduate student at Medill. You can follow her on Twitter at @angelaliuchen.